Puma de los Andes (José Luis Sotelo Montoro): A man who lives and breathes his art

 Puma de los Andes (José Luis Sotelo Montoro): A man who lives and breathes his art

I first met José Luis Sotelo Montoro (Puma de los Andes) at his home a couple of days before my interview. That evening, the night sky was thick with rain clouds, but it held off long enough for us to find his home. For my friend, Marbel, this was the third time she had seen José’s incredible Christmas exhibition (which is actually displayed in his living room) - she even joked that maybe she should get a cut for bringing so many people to see it.

We met again on Sunday, the last night of the display. As I spoke limited Spanish, and he just a little English, Marbel had to be our interpreter. There were plenty of laughs between the serious questions - it was like three friends catching up over drinks.

José has three words to describe his creative expression: Art, freedom and faith. To him, faith is the most important, and without it his art would have no meaning. He has learned to let go of ego, because for him we all work, but not everyone will leave their mark. He believes that the talent isn’t his, for his craft is the medium to express his faith - a gift from God.



Peru: Walking back in time in Waullac, Huaraz

Peru: Walking back in time in Waullac, Huaraz

The rainy season has made me claustrophobic. I’ve missed being out hiking but I’ve learned to listen to advice from those who know this area well, because when it rains in the mountains, it’s not just any rain. It’s glacial rain and it can chill you to the bone.

Liliana and I decided to check out Waullac, an archeological site in the barrio de Nicrucampa and believed to have been in use from 200 AC - 600 DC. It’s said to be linked to other sites I’ve already been to - Pumacayan (which is where I live) and Willkawain. The adobe house structures are typical of the Wari culture, though it looks more like storage houses than the ceremonial buildings in Willkawain.



Peru: A day out in Chancos, Ancash Region

Peru: A day out in Chancos, Ancash Region

I stood across from Novaplaza, waiting for the the Candioti family to pick me up. New Year’s Day streets in Huaraz were a scattering of humans either just waking up or heading home from what I can only imagine as a wild night out. My New Year’s Eve was relatively low key, and I was in bed not long after midnight - falling asleep to the lullabye of the symphonic fireworks.

The Candioti Family were heading out to Chancos for the day and Marbel, a friend of mine, had invited me out. Chancos is in the Marcará District, which is between Huaraz and Carhuaz. It’s about a 45 minute drive by car, and the views of the mountains were nothing short of breathtaking. Not that Huaraz is a big city, but there’s a different kind of freedom when you head out to the open road.



Peru: Lessons I Learned From A Wachuma Ceremony

Peru: Lessons I Learned From A Wachuma Ceremony

Many people have heard of the Ayahuasca ceremony, and the Wachuma (juice from the San Pedro cactus) will take you on a similar journey, though I have been told that the pre-ceremony preparation isn’t as strict as Ayahuasca. While some say that it’s best not to eat on the day of the ceremony, others believe that it makes no difference.

Wachuma is the Quechuan name for the San Pedro cactus. Although the use of psychedelics isn’t something I use recreationally, I make an exception in a controlled, ceremonial environment. It is said that if done with the right intentions, people can see into their past, future, and heal deep, emotional wounds. It’s best to go into the ceremony with no expectations.



Peru: Willkawain and Coca Leaf Reading Ceremony

Peru: Willkawain and Coca Leaf Reading Ceremony

Willkawain (in Quechua means grandson’s house) is an archeological site dating back to the pre-Incan era of the Wari culture. My landlady, Liliana, said that human remains have been found in one of the smaller buildings within the site itself. There are also tracks nearby which can lead to a lake and a campsite which we didn’t get to walk, but will probably explore another day.

It’s an interesting half-day out and relatively easy to get to - simply take a 1 sole colectivo and you’re dropped off by the entrance (the trip takes about 45 mins each way). Just be aware that on Sundays the colectivos don’t run as regularly later in the day. We ended up walking down the hill for 20 minutes and eventually found a taxi parked up at a soccer game.



Peru: Lake Wilcacocha In The Cordillera Negra

Peru: Lake Wilcacocha In The Cordillera Negra

In Peru, it still never ceases to amaze me where taxis will go, because in the time it took to walk most of the way up to Lake Wilcacocha (I didn’t manage to walk all the way up, read on), the same taxi must have passed us at least three or four times. Each time he would beep in the hopes I would do my lungs a favour and just hop in. The last time we saw him, he was driving a group of five (two in the front) up the pothole ridden dirt road.

It’s been over two weeks since I moved to Huaraz, and the altitude (let’s be honest I have lost a lot of my fitness these last two months) still affects me in small ways. I wake up in the morning a bit snotty, which goes away by mid-morning and doesn’t really trouble me too much. It’s most noticeable when I have joined Christina and Isobel (the Aussies) on our days out exploring Huaraz’s beautiful mountains.



The Onepu Wetlands

The Onepu Wetlands

I have covered the Onepu MTB Park, Onepu Wetlands and the Karaponga Reserve in previous posts - and this one is just a morning explorer with my Mum. She had been in the Philippines for a couple of months, and now that the weather is warmer in New Zealand (just coming into Spring), it was nice to show her some of the places I had been to. It was also a chance for me to see the wetlands again as Bill Clark (and the Onepu Community Group) had been doing some work in there recently.



Te Papa Exhibition Gallipoli: The Scale Of Our War

Te Papa Exhibition Gallipoli: The Scale Of Our War

We had studied World War I in school. There was a lot of focus on Gallipoli - teaching us about the brutal ANZAC campaigns and how it (and subsequently World War II) had robbed many towns and cities of a generation of men. No community escaped the melancholy of war - and even those who survived the bullets and shrapnel, their minds did not. For myself, born in a generation that has never experience a world war (or lived in a war torn country), I hope that we are not naive enough to think it won’t happen again. Exhibitions like Gallipoli are necessary to remind us that war is futile - the great loss of life is no victory for either side.